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Alumni Reflect on Their Education About Ethical and Societal Issues

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Conference

2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access

Location

Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Professional Formation and Career Experiences

Tagged Division

Liberal Education/Engineering & Society

Page Count

22

DOI

10.18260/1-2--36661

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/36661

Download Count

24

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Paper Authors

biography

Angela R. Bielefeldt University of Colorado Boulder

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Angela Bielefeldt is a professor at the University of Colorado Boulder in the Department of Civil, Environmental, and Architectural Engineering (CEAE) and Director for the Engineering Plus program. She has served as the Associate Chair for Undergraduate Education in the CEAE Department, as well as the ABET assessment coordinator. Professor Bielefeldt was also the faculty director of the Sustainable By Design Residential Academic Program, a living-learning community where students learned about and practice sustainability. Bielefeldt is also a licensed P.E. Professor Bielefeldt's research interests in engineering education include service-learning, sustainable engineering, social responsibility, ethics, and diversity.

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Jake Walker Lewis

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Graduate of the University of Colorado Boulder with a bachelor's degree in environmental engineering and a master's degree in civil engineering. Was involved with undergraduate research regarding ethics in engineering education, presented work in the form of a poster at the 2018 Zone IV ASEE Conference. Defended and published master's thesis examining if/how ethics are being introducted in K12 STEM education in November 2019. Co-authored paper entitled "Educating Civil Engineering Students about Ethics and Societal Impacts via Cocurricular Activities." This paper was recognized by the Journal of Professional Issues in Engineering Education and Practice as an Editor's Choice. Currently working with Dr. Angela Bielefeldt as a research assistant. Preparing to submit three papers regarding ethics in engineering education as co-author at the 2020 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition.

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Madeline Polmear University of Florida Orcid 16x16 orcid.org/0000-0002-7774-6834

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Madeline Polmear is a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Civil and Coastal Engineering at the University of Florida. She completed her B.S. in environmental engineering, M.S. in civil engineering, and Ph.D. in civil engineering at the University of Colorado Boulder. Her research focuses on bridging technical and nontechnical competencies to support the professional preparation and ethical responsibility of engineering students.

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Daniel Knight University of Colorado Boulder

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Daniel W. Knight is the Program Assessment and Research Associate at Design Center (DC) Colorado in CU’s Department of Mechanical Engineering at the College of Engineering and Applied Science. He holds a B.A. in psychology from Louisiana State University, an M.S. degree in industrial/organizational psychology and a Ph.D. degree in education, both from the University of Tennessee. Dr. Knight’s research interests are in the areas of K-12, program evaluation and teamwork practices in engineering education. His current duties include assessment, team development, outreach and education research for DC Colorado's hands-on initiatives.

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Chris Swan Tufts University Orcid 16x16 orcid.org/0000-0001-5670-8938

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Chris Swan is Dean of Undergraduate Education for the School of Engineering and an associate professor in the Civil and Environmental Engineering department at Tufts University. He has additional appointments in the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life and the Center for Engineering Education and Outreach at Tufts. His current engineering education research interests focus on community engagement, service-based projects and examining whether an entrepreneurial mindset can be used to further engineering education innovations. He also does research on the development of sustainable materials management (SMM) strategies.

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Abstract

Incidents of unethical practices and times when negative impacts to communities and individuals have resulted from engineering projects may cause us to question the quality of education that college students receive on these topics. However, there is also evidence that professional engineering morality and ethical commitment may regress over time in the work force. There is little data in the literature that provides evidence of the fit between engineering practice and the educational training that students received on engineering ethics and societal impacts. Therefore, this study explored the extent to which alumni felt that they had received adequate education to face ethical / societal issues in their work, and what they believed to be most helpful regarding their formal education on these topics. Methods: This mixed-methods study gathered information on the perspectives of alumni about their education on ethics and societal impacts. Embedded within a larger study, alumni from 9 institutions responded to a survey describing what they recalled of their ethics education. This included alumni from 8 courses considered to be ‘exemplars’ for high quality engineering ethics instruction and one ‘control’ group (a convenience sample from a large public institution). Interviews were also conducted with 14 engineering alumni. Results: The survey included the question “To what level do you believe you were adequately prepared through your education to: (1) face ethical issues in your work, and (2) consider societal issues in your work?” The response scale ranged from 1 (not at all) to 10 (fully prepared). Among engineering alumni who had received at least one ‘exemplary’ ethics educational experience, 58% rated the level that they believed they were adequately prepared through their education to face ethical issues in their work at 8-10 (on a scale of 1 to 10), and 49% rated their preparation to consider societal issues at 8-10; only 1% and 4% rated these at 4 or less, respectively. These averages differed across institutions (e.g., average for ethical issues 8.2 at a religiously-affiliated R2 institution versus 6.3 at a Public R2 institution). Alumni described courses in college (undergraduate or graduate), if any, that impacted their understanding of the role of engineering and/or computing in society. These courses included an array of humanities/social science (HSS) courses and engineering courses (e.g., capstone design). In the interviews, some alumni described feeling somewhat unprepared for a variety of ethical situations on the job. Most advocated for greater engineering ethics education, primarily through integration into existing engineering courses. Limitations in the work include a fairly small sample. The results provide insights into how educational practices are influential in terms of the knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors of working engineers with respect to ethics and broader impacts.

Bielefeldt, A. R., & Lewis, J. W., & Polmear, M., & Knight, D., & Swan, C. (2021, July), Alumni Reflect on Their Education About Ethical and Societal Issues Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. 10.18260/1-2--36661

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2021 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015